Swindon’s unusual history as a large industrial town in the heart of Wiltshire has defined its townscape for the last 200 years. The town is largely the creation of the nineteenth century, built around the Great Western Railway’s Works, but it nonetheless has over 600 listed buildings, not to mention scheduled monuments and three registered parks and gardens. In Swindon in 50 Buildings, local author Angela Atkinson examines not only such well-known Swindon landmarks and areas as the GWR Railway Village Conservation Area and the Old Town, but also everyday buildings that reveal aspects of Swindon’s always fascinating and surprising story.
It is inevitable that many of the buildings in this book reflect Swindon’s great railway heritage, but others are small stories written in brick and stone that tell of a time before the railway came and changed everything. There are farmhouses now engulfed by twentieth-century housing estates and grander buildings such as Lydiard House. Rebuilt in the eighteenth century with a formal park, the Lydiard estate served as both an American army camp and prisoner of war camp during the Second World War.
The story continues to the present day with buildings designed by such well-known architects as Hugh Casson, the creator of the Wyvern Theatre, and Norman Foster, architect of the landmark and award-winning Spectrum Building. It includes, too, the most recent of Swindon’s additions to the listed building’s register – and it’s one that will surprise you.